No table fees promised for Laois cafés taking to the streets after Covid-19

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

No table fees promised for Laois cafés taking to the streets after Covid-19

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Cafés and restaurants in Laois towns may be able to offer outdoor dining due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

Parking spaces could be used for open air trading in Portlaoise Main Street and other towns to help businesses hit by Covid-19, Laois County Council has suggested.

A new focus group is being formed to plan the county’s recovery, and street trading with the usual fees waived, is one possible idea, Director of Services Simon Walton said. 

“Retail, hospitality, restaurants have been particularly hard hit,” he said.

The focus group will include people from Laois Chamber, Laois County Council and Downtown Portlaoise and Laois Tourism who will convene to oversee the recovery of the local economy.

At the May meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District, it was on the agenda to ask councillors for their ideas and input as to how they can support the recovery. 

Cllr Mary Sweeney suggested the on-street trading.

“We need to think differently in this new normal and reimagine how public spaces can be utilised to assist businesses. Foot fall is reduced so on-street businesses could be offered public spaces. They trialled this in Dublin, calling it a mobility plan. We could replicate that, maybe for cafés,” she said.

Cllr Willie Aird said some businesses are “a bit iffy” around reopening at all.

“Maybe we need a dedicated person to talk to people who might be a bit iffy about reopening. We won’t be charging rates, we need every measure in place to help businesses,” he said.

Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald agreed.

“There are a lot of worried business people, moreso in the hospitality trade. Is there any way we can look at our streetscape shortly, it’s pressing for them. The longer it goes on the harder it will be,” she said.

Mr Walton said the normal licence charged to businesses for tables and chairs will be waived.

“In normal circumstances putting out tables and chairs is subject to application to the local authority, and the licence fee is €150 per table. There’ll be no licence fee charged by Laois County Council, but there will still be some form of requirement to apply for permission, because there are other interest groups to consider, with mobility or vision problems, or the business next door may require a queue. 

“If you take the area from the courthouse to Shaws, thre is 3,000 square metres of public space available. Right now up to 80% is taken up by the car. There may be an opportunity, with agreement, in reallocating these on a temporary basis some of the space to accommodate businesses in the reality of the new normal. People need to feel safe and confident,” he said.

Cllr Noel Tuohy said the social distancing rules will cut traders’ profits.

“It’s important that when this lifts that we support local businesses. The new rules make it twice as expensive, we must look after Laois businesses,” he said.

“The people need it as well. To sit and socialise, to have a coffee or lunch together,” Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said.